March 21, 2014
What is it?
A labral tear, also sometimes called a glenoid labrum tear, is an injury that occurs inside the shoulder joint. A doctor inserting an arthroscopic camera into the joint, most reliably identifies this type of injury. In the shoulder joint, the ball of the upper arm sits in a socket inside the shoulder blade, between it and the collarbone; this socket is called the glenoid. Around this joint, fibrous tissue called the labrum helps to stabilize the arm in the socket, deepen the joint, and serve as a point of attachment for several ligaments in the shoulder and arm. Labral tears may be caused by myriad activities as described below.
What Are The Major Symptoms?
A labral tear exhibits many of the same symptoms as other shoulders injuries, including:
- shoulder pain and tenderness, especially during overhead movements,
- feeling as though the shoulder is locking up or “catching” somehow, or a popping sound/sensation,
- worsening pain at night, and when actively using the shoulder,
- stiffness, hampered range of motion, and a loss of strength in the arm and shoulder,
- feeling that the shoulder is unstable
Because these symptoms are shared with other injuries, inflammation, and tears, an arthroscopic camera is needed to see inside the joint and to make an accurate diagnosis. An MRI arthrogram can be helpful for diagnosis as well.
What Causes a Labral Tear?
This kind of injury is usually caused by sudden and specific trauma. Falling on the shoulder, especially if the arm is stretched out at the time, can cause a labral tear. Wrenching or pulling injuries, such as either trying to lift a heavy object or prevent a fall, also often causes labral tears. Throwing athletes are susceptible to labral tears, as are high-impact athletes, golfers, and weightlifters.
What Are The Treatment Options?
If the tear is severe, arthroscopic surgery will be used to repair and reattach the damaged soft tissue. If the tear is incomplete, then a gentler course of action can be effective. As with most joint issues, rest and anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed. Once the pain and inflammation have lessened, then a course of exercise therapy to gain flexibility and strengthen the muscles around the shoulder is usually extremely effective. Strengthening these muscles will help stabilize the shoulder, usually allowing a gradual decrease in symptoms.
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